Moravians have long argued for the simplicity of the Christian faith, albeit a simplicity that is found on the far side of complexity. Luke of Prague, a premier theologian of the Ancient Unity, taught that the one essential (see motto above) was “a heart relationship with the Triune God that issues in faith, hope and love.” Count Zinzendorf said that all essential Christian doctrine could be written down on one large sheet of paper. We find a similar pattern of looking for the simplicity on the far side of complexity in the New Testament when Jesus says, “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Or, when St. Paul says, “The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)
Moravians, like most Trinitarian Churches, are almost universally agreed on the following “Eight Essentials,” which date to lists composed by two 19th-century Moravian Synods.
- The Universality of sin and humankind’s inability to save itself from sin’s power.
- The Love of God the Father for the world.
- The Two Natures of Christ, Human and Divine.
- The At-One-Ment between God and Man that God accomplishes through Christ and his cross.
- The gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in enabling us to believe in Christ and come to him.
- The Fruit of the Holy Spirit evident in the life of all believers.
- The Fellowship of all believers with one another.
- The Second Advent of the Lord in Glory. Though usually associated with apocalyptic imagery, this confession simply means that the Christ who appeared for the first time on the plane of human history in humility and hidden-ness, visible only to the eyes of faith, must, of necessity, appear a second time, visible to faith and unbelief alike. We believe that Christ coming back for his church on earth and our being called home to him are but two sides of the same coin. These things are mysteries, but mysteries we hold dear.
It is interesting how closely this list of essentials parallels the actual content of the Apostolic Proclamation of the Gospel re- corded in the New Testament!
The Ground of the Unity
In the World Wide Unity Synod of 1957 Moravians adopted a document known as “The Ground of the Unity,” or “GOTU,” as our official statement of doctrine. “The Ground of the Unity”, can be found on-line at: http://newphilly.org/gotu/.
The Covenant for Christian Living
Zinzendorf was a key figure in adopting “The Brotherly Agreement,” a document that outlines the way we believe we should relate to each other and the world around us. Now know as “The Covenant for Christian Living” can be found on-line at: http://newphilly.org/covenant/.
Moravian Sacraments, Customs & Practices
Moravians recognize Baptism in all forms. We receive our children into the church through Infant Baptism. Customarily the method of sprinkling or pouring is used.
Baptized children are admitted to the Lord’s Table after they have demonstrated appropriate interest, and completed a period of instruction by one of the pastors. If you have a baptized child who wishes to take the Holy Communion, please contact us. In the ritual of Confirmation children who were baptized on the basis of the faith of their parents and of the church are received into full membership by the laying on of hands after a period of instruction.
Adults who wish to become members of the Moravian church are received by Adult Baptism, by Reaffirmation of Faith, or by Letter of Transfer from their former churches, whichever is most appropriate.
A statement about baptism approved by both provinces of the Moravian Church in America can be found on-line here: http://newphilly.org/baptism/
Holy Communion is celebrated throughout the church year. It is always received in the un-gloved right hand. All Christians are invited to participate, whether Protestants or Catholics. While the elements are being distributed, the congregation joins in singing hymns appropriate to the occasion, and then all partake together. Unlike some churches, Moravians do not attempt to define how Christ is present in the Holy Communion; we simply trust that He is with us, the unseen host at the table who grants us the forgiveness of sins and the grace to go forward with God in this world and the next.
The Moravian Church is one of the very few churches which have a service dedicated to the greatest of virtues, Christian Love. It is call a Lovefeast, after the practice of the Apostolic Church which often preceded the Lord’s Supper with a common meal partaken in love and fellowship. Though not considered a sacrament, Lovefeasts regularly take place at Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Christmas Lovefeasts at New Philadelphia draw thousands of visitors each year. As a part of the service we partake of a special Lovefeast bun and coffee laced with cream and sugar. The highlight of the evening takes place when lighted candles are distributed to every member of the congregation.
The Moravian Church was a pioneer in the field of daily devotional literature. The Moravian Daily Texts is a book of scriptures, hymn stanzas, and a prayer for each day. It is used by millions of Christians of all persuasions living around the world. The Moravian Daily Texts is published annually and is available through the Church Office. It is also available by email from: http://moravian.org/daily_texts/.
Download a PDF of the “Ground of the Unity” here
Download a PDF of the “Covenant for Christian Living” here